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Balkan Report: June 1, 1999

1 June 1999, Volume 3, Number 21

UCK Leaders Say Air Strikes Protect Kosovars. Hashim Thaci, who is a leader of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and the prime minister of the UCK-backed provisional government, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of May 31 that NATO should intensify its air strikes. He added that NATO's bombing campaign has prevented Serbian forces from carrying out even worse massacres and abuses than has been the case. He noted that the morale among Serbian troops in the province is low.

Thaci argued that only military pressure will prompt Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to make concessions. He said that he is pleased with the level of cooperation between the UCK and provisional government on the one hand and NATO on the other.

Thaci stressed that he is willing to compromise with Ibrahim Rugova of the moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) in order to promote Kosovar unity. He added, however, that the Kosovars are already united on most key issues and that the differences between the UCK and Rugova have been "overestimated in Western capitals."

The guerrilla leader pointed out that his troops are carrying out an offensive in southwestern Kosova near the Albanian border. Thaci put the overall strength of the UCK at 20,000 armed fighters and 10,000 logistical support troops. He declined to cite figures on the number of fighters who have joined the UCK from abroad.

Thaci noted that the UCK has become much more professional since General Agim Ceku took over its command recently. Ceku is a former Yugoslav army officer who deserted to the Croatian forces in 1991 and later became a general in the Croatian army. He was heavily involved in the subsequent transformation of the Croatian forces from a home guard into a modern army. He took part in both of its major operations in 1995.

Ceku himself told RFE/RL this past weekend that NATO air strikes have reduced the ability of Serbian forces to "carry out their war against civilians" in Kosova. Ceku noted that the morale of Serbian forces is low and that reservists have recently deserted their units in large numbers. (Patrick Moore)

Kucan Lauds NATO Actions. Slovenian President Milan Kucan told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on May 30 that NATO policies in the Balkans are aimed at restoring "normal life" in Kosova and at establishing respect for "human rights as a fundamental principle of the new world order." He added that he does not believe that NATO will end its air strikes until it achieves its objectives. Kucan said he is opposed to the idea of partitioning Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 27, 1999). He noted that Ljubljana is willing to host a major international conference on the future of the Balkans. (Patrick Moore)

Negotiating With War Criminals? The decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia based in The Hague to indict Milosevic for crimes against humanity may complicate but will not preclude negotiations between NATO and the Belgrade leader.

It may complicate talks both by the impact it will have on Milosevic and by the consequences it will have on Western governments who want to resolve the Kosova crisis.

Milosevic will certainly view this action as another indication that the international community has no real interest in reaching an accord that would leave him in power. And he is likely to insist that the international community not move to bring him to trial if it wants an agreement with him.

At the same time, Western governments are likely to face new pressures from public opinion to abstain from talking to a man who has been indicted for what he and his regime have done in Kosova. And consequently, they almost certainly will find it more rather than less difficult to enter into negotiations anytime soon.

Not surprisingly, many commentators are already suggesting that this action will prolong the war by preventing talks between the international community and Belgrade. But there are at least three good reasons for thinking that such predictions will not prove to be true.

First, as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin pointed out, "you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends." And to make peace with them requires some kind of contact. Now that many governments have rejected the concept and consequences of unconditional surrender, governments and international organizations frequently have had to talk to those with whom they have been locked in conflict.

Sometimes these conversations are conducted through third parties--as is now the case with Russian mediation efforts in Yugoslavia. But quite often, governments talk directly to their enemies, even to regimes guilty of the worst forms of human rights abuses. The U.S., for example, defeated the Iraqi army in the field but ended the Gulf War via direct contacts with Baghdad officials.

Second, despite understandable reluctance at talking to war criminals, indicted or otherwise, most people and most governments have other and often competing interests. Many in Western governments find Slobodan Milosevic a noxious figure, but neither they nor the people they represent are committed to doing everything that may be necessary to drive him from power and bring him to trial.

If Milosevic is willing to compromise, they almost certainly will be open to compromise in order to avoid the consequences of not doing so. And when that happens, many who now oppose talking to an indicted war criminal will welcome the results and may even praise Milosevic's role in reaching them.

And third, Milosevic has only been indicted not convicted. While most observers are confident that he is guilty of all the crimes he is charged with and more, nearly all of them--and especially governments with broader interests--may choose to act on this distinction even if they choose to deny that that is what they are doing in order to gain an opening.

There is ample precedent for that: In Bosnia, the NATO-led forces have chosen not to arrest some of the indicted war criminals out of concern that such actions might exacerbate the situation. And while many analysts have suggested that this was a mistake and contributed to Milosevic's own behavior, few of those responsible for the lives of soldiers there share their pessimistic assessment.

Implicitly noting this precedent, the international community could effectively put off Milosevic's trial date forever as part of a deal that would allow Kosova Albanians to return home and the Yugoslav president to remain in office, albeit with diminished powers and diminished possibilities.

Such an outcome almost certainly will be morally unsatisfactory to many. Given what the Milosevic regime has done, many people around the world are likely to demand that he be brought to justice. But all too few of them appear prepared to back the kinds of actions that would be needed to force Milosevic to give himself up to the international tribunal.

Both because of the immediate problems this indictment creates and because of the likely outcome of this crisis, many observers are likely to conclude that the indictment handed down at The Hague was meaningless and unimportant.

But such judgments too are not only premature but almost certainly wrong. On the one hand, the action of the War Crimes Tribunal sends a powerful signal that there are international standards and that at least some leaders will be held accountable, a remarkable step forward from only a century ago when there were no such standards or means to enforce them.

And on the other, this indictment almost certainly means that Milosevic will not be able to travel outside his own country except to those states which do not respect the international rules of conduct. And consequently, like former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet, Milosevic may find himself more trapped by this indictment than either he or those decrying it now expect. (Paul Goble)

Germany Hosts Balkan Development Meeting. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told representatives of more than 30 countries and non-governmental organizations in Bonn on May 27 that his proposed "Balkan stabilization pact" must include realistic prospects for EU membership for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia and Albania, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. He added, however, that the process will take years and does not mean that the five countries will receive easy terms for membership.

The stability pact will also include Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. (Ljubljana stresses that its role will be as a donor of aid, investment and advice, not as a recipient.) The pact's aim is to promote a regional approach to political and economic development and to security issues. This is the first time in history that anyone has attempted to conceive such a program for the entire region. Much work remains to be done in drawing up the basic plan. Fischer has stressed that the plan will require a very long-term and serious commitment on the part of its sponsors.

On May 26 in Brussels, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that Balkan regional cooperation is an essential means to prevent future conflicts there. He stressed that the EU will offer long-term development assistance to Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. (Patrick Moore)

Edita Tahiri Talks to RFE/RL. Edita Tahiri is the secretary for foreign relations of Rugova's LDK and was a member of the delegation at the talks in Rambouillet. She recently gave an interview to RFE/RL's Albanian-language journalists:

Tahiri: Unfortunately, I must say that the position of G-8 towards Kosova, expressed in the document of 8 May 1999, stresses the territorial integrity of the so-called Yugoslavia. That was a state that in its name describes itself as a state of the South Slavs, but which [most] all Slavic peoples have left. There is no political or other reason for the international community to support [the continuity of that state]. The experiment called Yugoslavia has been tried three times this century and it has failed every time. Therefore, any further [political] investments by the international community into that project are in vain.

For the Kosovar Albanians, as a non-Slavic people, to remain in Yugoslavia and Serbia after all the genocide that they went through is absolutely unacceptable. The only long-term solution for Kosova is to become an independent and democratic state, according to the will of the people expressed in the referendum of 1991. We believe that recognition of the independence of Kosova will also promote peace and stability in southeastern Europe.

RFE/RL: Western leaders say that the divisions among the Kosovar leadership make a solution of the Kosova problem more difficult. What are the essential reasons for that division?

Tahiri: The political and military state institutions of Kosova have no divisions; they have complete unity in their desire to achieve independence of Kosova. In connection with the process of setting up a provisional government, we are working on the implementation of the formula that we agreed on in Paris and Rambouillet. [This will involve...] broad representation across the military and political spectrum, the representation of independent individuals, and representation of the previous [shadow-state] government....

RFE/RL: And is this not the current provisional government of Kosova?

Tahiri: If you are talking about the provisional government that was created recently [under Thaci], I must say that it is not very representative, because so far there are only two political groups represented in it.... If we take into account the tragic period through which we are going now, it is of essential importance that the government have a broader representation.

RFE/RL: But the provisional government already represents two-thirds of the political spectrum. All that is missing is the LDK.

Tahiri: I think...that the government of Kosova must unite all the relevant political and military groups, independent individuals, and also ensure continuity from the previous government.

RFE/RL: Will the LDK participate in the National Security Council that was proposed by Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko as a legislative body and in addition to the provisional government?

Tahiri: In connection with the initiative of the Albanian government for the creation of such an institution, let us recall that Albania recognized the independence of Kosova in the year 1991. The Albanian government would do well to recognize and support the institutions that were the product of the constitution of the Republic of Kosova [adopted at that time]. Concerning the help that Albania can provide now, unfortunately I have to say that in this tragic period for the Kosovar people and for the entire Albanian people, the position of the Albanian government was and continues to be one-sided and not democratic. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

NATO Tells Serbian Soldiers to Get Out of Kosova. Aircraft of the Atlantic alliance dropped leaflets on Kosova to encourage Serbian troops to "abandon" the province, AP reported on May 29. The text read in part: "These planes will keep coming back for you until they expel your unit from Kosovo and prevent you from committing atrocities. If you want to survive and see your family again, abandon your unit and weapon and leave Kosovo immediately!" (Patrick Moore)

Serbian Television Loses Satellite Link. Eutelsat stopped broadcasting the programs of Radio-Television Serbia (RTS)--otherwise known as "Milosevision"--throughout Europe in the evening of May 26. Members of the Eutelsat consortium voted recently to stop broadcasting RTS' programming on the grounds that the station foments ethnic hatred. RTS broadcast a commentary on its local Belgrade frequencies on May 26 in which it said that Eutelsat's move was "another attempt to prevent the dissemination of truth on developments" in the Balkans. (Patrick Moore)

Kosovar Refugee Wins Miss Albania Contest. A 19 year-old student from Kosova won the Miss Albania 1999 contest in Tirana on May 30. Venera Mustafa told AP after her victory: "This shows that [Kosova and Albania] are one and united." She was the only contestant from Kosova; the remaining women were all from Albania. Mustafa will represent Albania in a Miss Europe contest later this year. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations of the Week. "In accordance with our consistent policy of peace and defense of freedoms, Yugoslavia has accepted the G-8 principles and thinks a UN Security Council resolution, in accordance with the UN Charter, should enable the transfer of the resolution of the crisis from the military to the political sphere." -- Tanjug statement, May 31.

The Hague tribunal's indictment of Milosevic is "a just decision, even though it came a bit late.... The time of Slobodan Milosevic is finished. He no longer has any legitimacy to talk with anybody about a political solution." -- UCK leader Hashim Thaci, to "Le Monde" of May 28.

"This makes a peaceful solution almost impossible because it knocks out Milosevic as negotiating partner." -- Angelika Beer, of the German Greens on May 27.

"To achieve peace I'd even shake hands with the devil. That's the task of a foreign minister." -- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on May 27.

"Sometimes there are goals--such as peace in Europe--that take precedence over other considerations." -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on May 27.

"If Milosevic can continue [with his program of ethnic cleansing], we can see next what will happen in the Sandzak.... You will see an overthrow of [the democratic government in] Montenegro. You will see that Albanian nationalism will explode. And this will have severe consequences for stability in the whole region, especially in Macedonia." -- Joschka Fischer in Washington, on May 25.

"The brutal atrocity by the U.S.-led NATO occurred at a time when our country has achieved major breakthroughs in the reform and opening-up drive and is assuming an increasingly important role in the world arena. We must spare no effort to ensure the advancement and final success of the reform and opening-up drive, and we can't afford any setbacks or failure." -- Chinese Communist Party daily "Renmin Ribao," on May 28.

"China is afraid of Kosovo because of Tibet." -- Sonam Topgyal, chief cabinet minister for Tibet's government-in-exile, quoted by AP in Tokyo on May 28.